Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Rock'n'Roll Sweepstakes, the Authorized Biography of Ian Hunter by Campbell Devine

 


Although I didn't realize it when I bought this new bio, Devine also wrote a book on Mott the Hoople, All the Young Dudes, the Biography, which I enjoyed, so I think that this tome is already in good company. I have been fascinated with Ian and MTH since I first heard "All the Young Dudes" and I have played their records probably every week of my life since then!

A bit of a loner as a child, Ian drifted towards music and then was completely enthralled when rock'n'roll hit the British shores while he was a teenager, being especially enamored with Jerry Lee Lewis and the wildman Little Richard. Despite disappointing his parents, he had to join in and was soon playing'n'singing in local bands. As I've said numerous times, I always love reading about the rabidly exciting days of r'n'r in the 60's and Ian's tale is certainly no different - he played in all types of bands, including a Screamin' Lord Sutch take-off that sounds like it was literally out of control!

Of course, Devine brings in the other MTH members around this time, giving their convoluted, intertwined, innumerable bands-histories. There's a nice aside when the pre-Ian band, then called The Silence, played in Germany and Overend raves about the Monks! The Silence is eventually picked up by Guy Stevens and signed to Island records on the condition that they change out their singer - Guy famously desired a band that was a combination of the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan and that's where Ian Hunter came in and the rest is rock'n'roll history.

Recording four albums in reasonably quick succession, Guy Stevens' production sometimes hampers the group (he seems to have been literally teetering on the brink of insanity) and sometimes lets them go fairly berserk and the material varies dramatically from blistering rock'n'roll that obviously influenced punk bands, especially the Sex Pistols (Ian notes this, as well), to Dylan-ish ballads to country rock!

Although the albums were not big sellers, the band grew into a monstrous live act with a rabid fan base. The early albums are now considered classics, with their mix of blazingly hot rockers and Ian's more mellow ballads that are indeed, Dylan-esque. Unfortunately, they did not sell and the band had actually broken up when they got a call from David Bowie who offered them "All the Young Dudes" and sudden stardom. Everything moved at lightning speed, with big shows, tours, another critically acclaimed album, Mott, that produced a couple more (Ian-penned) hits (although I'm fairly flabbergasted that the group did not like the American album cover, with a fantastic photo of them looking ultra-rock'n'roll and preferred the blase, unexciting British version) followed by the departure of their incredible guitarist, Mick Ralphs. After already having lost organist Verden Allen after ATYD, this huge loss could have meant the end for them but they rush-procured former Spooky Tooth guitarist Luther Grosvenor and renamed him Ariel Bender. Unfortunately, although they put out an album and toured with Luther, he never really clicked with them (I never really cared for him in the band and feel a bit vindicated by this book's interviews that showed that the band agreed, despite their public approval) and he was asked to leave, with the plan to bring in Mick Ronson. This combo, which seemed perfect on paper, literally only lasted weeks, ending with the demise of the band altogether.

This books really is the story of MTH, with a sequel due in 2021 concentrating on Hunter's solo career. Devine does a great job of gathering everyone's input, especially Ian's, and putting the tale together in a highly enjoyable way. MTH created an incredible amount of fantastic r'n'r in a mere 5 years (boggling how short their career was!) and any fan of real rock'n'roll music should own all of their albums and this book!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

recommended gigs

11-21-20 - Johnny Zig and the Force LIVE at GOAT 

11-23-20 Thee Swank Bastards LIVE at the Golden Tiki

11-25-20 - *CANCELLED* the Delta Bombers, Shanda and the Howlers and the Ryolite Sound LIVE at the Fremont Country Club

11-30-20 Thee Swank Bastards LIVE at the Golden Tiki

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Real Frank Zappa Book by Frank Zappa and Peter Occhiogrosso


 I first heard Zappa when my sister brought home the Mothers of Invention's We're Only In It For the Money and was fairly well freaked out'n'fascinated. Then in my teens a good friend was a Zappa fanatic and we used to go see him whenever we could in Chicago, which was fairly often. I didn't really pay attention to him after the 70's, but always respected the man and his works. I have been revisiting him somewhat due to my more recent obsession with Captain Beefheart and this bio randomly came across my attention so I decided to check it out.

Turns out it's an autobiography in which Peter would prompt Frank and record his answers and compile them in a reasonably coherent form. This is actually pretty entertaining, actually, as you feel like Frank is simply talking with you. He goes on tangents and fiddles with chronology but Peter keeps the storyline pretty much under control.

As a pre-rock'n'roll teen, Zappa was enamored by Rhythm'n'Blues but one day discovered a record by avant composer Varese entitled "Ionisation" and this changed his concepts of what music could be. He never lost his R'n'B roots, though, and through them he formed various groups and became friends with another local loon, the afore-mentioned Captain. Eventually, he graduated, went through various odd jobs and by chance ended up owning a home made recording studio where he would work out his own compositions.

At some point he sat in and took over a group which became the Mothers and, due to record company insistance, the Mothers of Invention. Surprisingly, this collection of oddballs got signed to a major label and was able to release a double album as their debut! I love to hear anyone's recollections of my adopted home town of LA/Hollywood in the 60's and Zappa, naturally, has his own unique take on it. Funnily, although he has always disparaged hippies in general, he was obviously proud of LA and thought that it was more individualistic than other cities, such as San Francisco.

From there, the rest of the book is not a biography at all but simply Frank’s “philosophy of the world”. Fair enough, it's his book and he's always intelligent and highly opinionated and while I don't always agree with him, he's not boring! But, boy, when he goes on about how stupid America is, I can't even imagine what he would think in this time of the Trump cult! Of course, there is a chapter on the PMRC - remember them? This bit of censorship from Tipper Gore (among other things, of course) quite possibly cost Al the presidency.

I really enjoyed the beginning of the book where Frank does give a bit of info about his life and while I mostly (not completely) agree with his philosophy of life, his proselytizing throughout the later part of the book does get somewhat tiresome - I would have preferred more concentration on his music. But I sure would have liked to have seen the TV show that he talks about pitching - sort of a musical version of the Daily Show, sorta/kinda! Too bad that didn't happen!

In any case, fans have probably already seen this book since it was released over 30 years (!!) ago, but it's a good read overall. 

Monday, November 09, 2020

Mockingbird Wish Me Luck - Charles Bukowski

 


Yeah, I'm on a Bukowski re-reading kick while I'm waiting for book orders to arrive in the mail. This 1972 poetry release must have come out about the time of the first record I heard from him, so these resonate pretty strongly with me and I hear his voice and his cadence every time I read them. 

Here he was still living in small rooms in Hollywood, with wild women, hippies, and drunks'n'druggies for company, whether he wanted it or not. Here he's still hungry, more than a little mad, drunk on cheap crap but laying down the strong lines about his view on life, his women, the racetrack, jail, other poets, cheap rooms, death and whatever fantasies pop into his demented mind. At times he becomes uncharacteristically sentimental when talking about his daughter and, when things were good, his love at the time, the sculptress Linda King.

While our personalities are nothing alike and my life has been nowhere near as extreme as his, I did live in the same neighborhoods, although not at the same time, and I have felt the sting of madness now'n'again, and certainly plenty of dark depressions, so there are bits'n'pieces I can relate to, and his words always ring true'n'powerful.

I dunno if I've read anything of his that I thought was bad, but this is a damn good one. Man, I miss the days of walking over to Red's bookstore and picking up the latest Buk release! 

Friday, November 06, 2020

Betting on the Muse by Charles Bukowski

 

This 1996 release - a couple years after his death - is a collection of poems and prose put together by Bukowski's wife, Linda, from unpublished works he left to be released posthumously. Here the writing is a bit more - hell, I guess mature might be the word. Bukowski is pleased with the words and doesn't mind saying so, which can be a bit tiresome and self-conscious at times, but when he's just letting the words flow, whether in poem form or short story, it truly is some of his better writing. Not as raw as in his youth, and maybe a bit more polished, but still strong. I like that there are poems and stories (very short) combined and it's interesting that he jumps from reminiscing about his youth to talking about the hear'n'now - on his personal computer in his private room in his (relatively) expensive house, with fine wine, 6 cats, and a very understanding wife. He understands his age and that death might arrive at any time, but he still hopes for the future, much more so than he ever did in his younger days - in fact in 1994 he mentions wanting to make it to 2020 - funny reading that now! He is continuously looking back on his life while also dwelling on his own mortality but now he remembers the good times (although he would still write of the hard times) and he is not talking of taking his own life but is sad to think of life leaving him due to sickness and age.

I've repeatedly said that I would most likely not want to meet the man, but his words on paper have been an important part of my life for a number of decades now. I got this when it came out and just re-read it while between other books, but this makes me wanna look out to see what I'm still missing from his repertoire, although I have enough of his books to be embarrassing already.

Most likely you already know whether or not you like his work - if you do, this is another good one, but for beginners, I'd start with something earlier - maybe Post Office, Women or Factotum for the novels. I dig it, though.

RIP Ken Hensley

Former URIAH HEEP Keyboardist KEN HENSLEY Dead At 75
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I can't say that I was a huge Uriah Heep fan, but Demons and Wizards was certainly an important album back in the day and "Easy Living" and "The Wizard" were great songs!

Thursday, November 05, 2020

recommended gigs and live streams

 11-7-20 - Suburban Resistance, Soldiers of Destruction, Gob Patrol LIVE at the Dive Bar

11-9-20 Thee Swank Bastards LIVE at the Golden Tiki

11-16-20 Thee Swank Bastards LIVE at the Golden Tiki

11-23-20 Thee Swank Bastards LIVE at the Golden Tiki

11-25-20 - the Delta Bombers, Shanda and the Howlers and the Ryolite Sound LIVE at the Fremont Country Club

11-30-20 Thee Swank Bastards LIVE at the Golden Tiki

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent by Vincent Price


 This was a completely random buy after I had perused the internet for books on these two 50's cats on a whim, most likely after listening to some CD comp I made with their tunes. Surprisingly, I did not find a lot out there and this one was reasonably priced so I copped it.

It's a tiny one - a mere 82 pages of reasonably large print and even just a handful of pages in, the writing is pretty awkward with lots of repetition, punctuation errors, odd references and a lot more filler than real biographical information. Price suddenly jumps into a narrative storyline regarding Cochran and a friend without introducing the pal, but apparently he was close to Eddie and their stories intertwined a bit and his friend helped Cochran's family after his untimely death.

Gene Vincent is given equally short shift, if not more so, with very little info and a rushed run-through of his life, his connection to Cochran (leading to even more repetition) and his death in 1971.

There are some neat photos reproduced here, although there are no accompanying notes so there's no way to know who else is appearing in them, and there's discographies of both gents.

Really not much here to recommend though, I'm sorry to say.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Who's Crazee Now? by Noddy Holder

 


Since they never really had any hits in the States, I don't think that I had heard Slade before they showed up on Friday night on either the In Concert TV show or Midnight Special. But once I saw them, I was hooked! I loved their wildly outrageous look (especially lead guitarist Dave Hill) and their fantastically rockin' yet melodic songs - "Cum On Feel the Noize" was a real anthem! The next day I went to the local record shop and had to order Slayed - my little town was nowhere hip enough to already have it - and got whatever I could find after that. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to see them - apparently, they were already on the way down the charts by this time - but I still listen to them regularly.

I found Dave Hill's autobiography a couple of years ago but haven't gotten anyone else (all four have 'em now) until I discovered this at a reasonable rate. Noddy, like most chaps his age, fell in love with rock'n'roll when it hit England in his early teen years and he started a band as soon as he was able. His first proper group actually became a reasonably popular cover band that did the British circuit and even a stint in Germany. He then wanted a change and bumped into Dave and Don Powell (drummer), who were ready to depart from the 'N Betweens and had already recruited bassist Jimmy Lea, and the rest, as they say...

They eventually hooked up with Chas Chadler, who had just ended his management with Jimi Hendrix, they recorded a couple of albums, had a bit of an image quandary, and eventually had a smash hit (except in America) with "Coz I Luv You" and then the Slade Alive album, and those two records changed their lives practically overnight. From there they had a blitz of Number 1's in England and Europe, although they barely scratched the charts in the States. At their height, drummer Don Powell had a horrible auto accident in which he almost died and which caused him to lose his short term memory, but he was back on the drum stool in record time and they recorded their biggest British hit, "Merry Xmas" just in time for the season. Again, this is a funny one for me, as I never even heard the song until the last few years - just shows how something can be massive in Europe and go nowhere in the States.

That was their pinnacle and though they had some ups'n'downs and even a couple of lesser hits, things were never the same and, after a initial demise and revival, they called it quits for good with Noddy and Jim retiring from music altogether (as the songwriters, they still see good money from the band) while Dave and Don continue on as Slade 2. Noddy's post-Slade work in British radio and TV did not captivate me but good to know that he can still live a comfortable life.

I was surprised that this book was released in 2000 - 20 years old now! - and I hadn't seen it before now, but glad that I found it! While it is a small (romance novel-sized), inexpensively-produced paperback, it is pretty packed with crazee tales, although he does drop in plenty of British references that he doesn't bother to explain and expects you to know. Regardless, it's a fun one and definitely more light-hearted than Dave Hill's surprisingly somber bio. Fans should definitely get it!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

recommended gigs

 10-31-20 - Rayford Brothers LIVE at the Sand Dollar

11-7-20 - Suburban Resistance, Soldiers of Destruction, Gob Patrol LIVE at the Dive Bar

11-9-20 Thee Swank Bastards LIVE at the Golden Tiki

11-16-20 Thee Swank Bastards LIVE at the Golden Tiki

11-23-20 Thee Swank Bastards LIVE at the Golden Tiki

11-30-20 Thee Swank Bastards LIVE at the Golden Tiki

Monday, October 26, 2020

RIP Bob BIggs of Slash Records

Bob Biggs, Founder of Slash Records, Dies at 74 
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Sunday, October 25, 2020

What's New Keanu? by Tom Neely


 Because Tom is a decent human being, he is a dog lover, with previous pooches named Barky and Samhain (RIP to both). According to Tom, Keanu is mostly his girlfriend's dog, but he thinks Tom is ok, as well, and Tom obviously has just a bit of affection for Keanu, as well. His exploits appear on Neely's Instagram account at times and here he has gathered together a collection of his favorite pieces. Most dog lovers, especially those who live with relatively small mutts, will recognize their own fur baby in these strips, and this is much more light-hearted and, dare I say it, sentimental than much of Neely's more graphic, ultra-violent, ulrta-sex-driven, disturbing work. But, that's because Tom is a sweetheart underneath the EC Comics cover that he wears!

Anyone with a four legged friend should have this one!

Pastiche by Tom Neely


 This bit of sequential art came about when Tom needed a break from a big project and gave himself a week to process a complete comic book in time for a Comic Con. Combining his fascination with doppelgangers with some vintage Popeye comic books he found, he created Dopeye, an uncannily familiar sailor who has an existential crisis when he meets himself and what else can he do but down some spinach and fight his way out? It is a bit esoteric in the manner of his works like The Blot, but that certainly doesn't effect its entertainment value!

According to the back cover - and it wouldn't lie, would it? - this became "one of Neely's most popular and acclaimed pieces of sequential art" - quite a feat considering some of the incredible work that he has done! It actually led him to draw some official Popeye comics, as well!

Beautifully done artwork with wild, anarchic scenes (I will never know how he can willingly create so many crowd scenes!), some pop culture in jokes and a story line that may be perceived equally as deep or meaningless - as much art can!

Neely Covers Comics To Give You The Creeps by Tom Neely

 


Tom Neely is an old friend of ours who, of course, is known for his fantastic Henry and Glenn series as well as the amazing Humans Planet of the Apes-meets-Hell's Angels comics. Naturally, he has done quite a bit of other work in a wide variety of settings including this neat little comic where he puts his own spin on old school Creepy and other classic horror comic covers. Neely has a unique, instantly recognizable style - a mix of vintage cartoons mixed with rock'n'roll, horror, plenty of pop culture, pop art and pop violence. I'm a huge fan but for a measly $6, this is a great collection!

RIP Jerry Jeff Walker

Jerry Jeff Walker, Who Wrote 'Mr. Bojangles,' Dies At 78 
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Friday, October 23, 2020

Blues All Day Long - the Jimmy Rogers Story by Wayne Everett Goins

 


Jimmy Rogers was, of course, the guitarist in Muddy Waters' ace backing band at its peak, along with Willie Dixon, Little Walter and Elgin Evans, before he moved on to a successful solo career and he is still known as one of the legends of the Chicago music scene. Goins realized that there was not a true biography on this man despite most of his comrades receiving acclaims regularly and he decided that he should be the man to fix this glaring omission. 

Rogers' childhood is a bit confusing as his parents did not stay together long and he was sent to live with his grandmother and her large family, who he would refer to as siblings instead of aunts and uncles. Considering that his sir name varied from his biological father to his step-father to his grandparents' names, this became even more obtuse. Goins does his best to straighten out this tanglement and give us as clear of a picture as possible.

Because he traveled a lot as a child - his grandmother worked and traveled on the railroad and he would often accompany her - Rogers was mostly a loner, although he had a few close friends. I find it wild that he was childhood buddies with Snooky Pryor, who ended up as another Chicago blues great, of course, and Rogers' nickname originally was Snooky, and Pryor was Bubba! As children, their parents did not approve of their interest in the "devil's music", but they managed to see a number of the early greats by sneaking off to whatever juke joint they were playing in. As he grew older, he would sit in with the giants on both guitar and harmonica and created a name for himself in the region and eventually moved permanently to Chicago.

And man, what a time to be in Chicago! So many legends were on the scene and they were playing together, drinkin' together, gamblin' together and hangin' at each other's houses - almost gives me chills to think of all these cats in the same place'n'time, just diggin' the music. Jimmy joined forces with Muddy Waters and eventually brought Little Walter into the fold and proceeded to produce some of the most enduring blues music ever recorded. Each man eventually went on their own and with the entrance of rock'n'roll on the scene, their stars began to diminish. In fact, Rogers, dropped out of music altogether for most of the 60's to support his family and wouldn't return until the 70's. But, his return began his most productive period of his career - regular gigs in Chicago (man, I wish I had been a few years older and knew about all these cats playing in clubs!), recording, and even touring Europe.

While there are some fun tales of this time, and it's nice to know that Rogers was acknowledged for his contributions to the blues, a good portion of this period is simply Goins listing the various musicians coming'n'going from the band and the gigs that they played and tours that they embarked upon. Certainly there are some hip anecdotes - the band plays with the Exploited at one point! - and Rogers reunites with other Chicago legends for recordings and concerts, it just isn't as captivating as the early days. In fact, most (not all) of the recordings that Rogers is involved in seem to simply be him revisiting his old songs over'n'over with various sidemen, even as he attains higher levels of acclaim than ever before. In fact, just before he died he was busier than ever, with a star-studded album being released just a short time after he was taken by cancer (same as his old boss, Muddy) at 72.

Regardless, I had a good time with this - worth delving into for the vast amount of info on the old days and Goins does his best to set the record straight throughout Jimmy's history.


Thursday, October 22, 2020

RIP The Amazing Randi



James Randi, magician and paranormal debunker, dead at 92 
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Besides being a pop culture icon, rock'n'rollers will remember Randi as the one who created some of Alice Cooper's (that band) greatest illusions. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

RIP Spencer Davis



SPENCER DAVIS FOUNDER OF '60S BAND Dead at 81
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Spencer formed the great garage/white-soul band, the Spencer David Group, featuring a young Steve Winwood. 
Another great one gone...

Friday, October 16, 2020

The Hi Records Story


 

After finishing the Al Green bio that had a fairly extensive history if Hi Records included I wanted to hear more from the artists featured on this Memphis label. There are a few compilations around, but this was reasonably priced and seemed to encapsulate a good number of the musicians.

The Bill Black Combo was a 50's instrumental band and the music is somewhat similar to the likes of Bill Doggett and others from that time period - kinda swingin, bachelor pad-styled tunes. From there we get Ace Cannon's sax groove, "Tuff", Murray Kellum's doo-wop number "Long Tall Texan", the soul stirrin' "20-75" by Willie Mitchell (who would end up producing many of the Hi Records hits), Jumpin' Gene Simmons' classic 50's R'n'B "Haunted House", the Motown-ish "Love Is After Me" (Charlie Rich), Jerry Jaye doin' a rockin' take on Fats Domino's "My Girl Josephine", Willie Mitchell returns for "Soul Serenade", Ann Pebbles does a fabulously funky job on "Part Time Love" and then there's a couple smash hits from Hi's biggest star, the smooth soul serenade singer Al Green - "Tired Of Being Alone" and "Let's Stay Together".

Ann Pebbles comes back for the terrifically lascivious "(I Feel Like) Breaking Up Somebody's Home", George Jackson gives us the soulful breakup/makeup number, "Aretha, Sing One For Me", followed by another Green masterpiece, "I'm Still In Love With You", then Otis Clay's upbeat-but-depressing dance number "Trying To Live My Life Without You", Quiet Elegance lives up to the name in the powerful, painful ballad "You've Got My Mind Messed Up", Pebbles appears again for "I Can't Stand the Rain", Syl Johnson grooves in "Back For a Taste Of Your Love", Phillip Mitchell gets soulful in "Turning Over the Ground", Otis Clay is back for the love-lost ballad "It Was Jealousy", Syl Johnson does a fine job on Green's "Take Me To The River", Jean Plum sings sweetly in "Look At the Boy" and the proceedings conclude with OV Wright's won brand of soul in "Precious, Precious".

If you're a soul music fan then you should know many of these artists already but either way, this is a fine comp and a hip representation of this swingin' label.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

recommended live streams and live gigs

 10-10-20 - the Two Tens live stream virtual release show 8:00 pm Pacific Time

10-10-20 - Franks'n'Deans live stream - 8:00 pm Pacific Time

10-22-20 - Rev Horton Heat and Shanda ad the Howlers LIVE at the Fremont Country Club

10-23-20 - Rev Horton Heat and Shanda ad the Howlers LIVE at the Fremont Country Club

10-31-20 - Rayford Brothers LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

More RIP's

Johnny Nash, ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ Singer, Dies At Age 80
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RIP Eddie Van Halen



Eddie Van Halen, Guitar Hero, Dies At 65
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I had no idea that he was this sick, but then, I haven't followed his career since his first LP, to be truthful. Can't say I'm a big fan, but I did like their debut when it came out and I can't dismiss his influence.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Soul Survivor - a Biography of Al Green by Jimmy McDonough

 


As much of a rock'n'roller as I am, I have always loved Soul Music, as presented by the greats of the 60's and the 70's, including the sweet, lovin' soul of Al Green. Jimmy McDonough (who also wrote the Neil Young Biography, Shakey) warns the reader right from the start that this will not be a sweet story, though, referencing Al's "autobiography", Take Me To the River, that Al admits he had little to do with, and mentioning his apparent multiple personalities and, an especially compelling story, the death of a woman that he was involved with (ruled as suicide) in his own home. As a minister in Memphis for over 40 years now, Green remains a man of mystery and McDonough does what he can to break down that wall and reveal a bit more of the man that the inconsistent "autobiography" showed.

Strangely, McDonough extensively quotes later-era Gizmos guitarist Dale Lawrence who, as far as I know, has nothing to do with Green, his style of music or his locale. Obviously, McDonough must know Lawrence personally, but it certainly made me do a double take as the first quote is on page four! Jimmy does also quote various other musicians without stating their qualifications other than as "musicians", which is fine, just a little odd.

There are a couple of chapters solely dedicated to Hi Records and the Royal studio and house band, which certainly does have plenty to do with the Al Green sound and is a fascinating tale in and of itself. Once Green was ensconced at Hi, there was a bit of trial'n'error before they starting making hits, but once they did, they were on a roll! Superstardom struck and stayed, bringing Al fame'n'fortune. Since he could not bring the Hi Records studio band on tour, he picked up a group - described as raggedy - that was led by guitarist Larry Lee, probably best known for being part of Gypsy Sun and Rainbows, Jimi Hendrix' Woodstock band! 

McDonough gets into Green's personality, as well, and we find out that along with being a tremendous womanizer, he was not respectful to his musicians or staff, which I was a bit surprised by, for some reason - maybe his laid-back vocal delivery. But, women loved him, to the extent that a crazed fan/ lover actually committed suicide (apparently), which caused his career to start faltering right as it was reaching new heights.

Once he found religion he started his own church and decided to only release gospel records, which led to several Grammys, but a lot of uninspired music. While there is some crazy drama - sex, drugs, violence - during this period of his life, it is less interesting to me than his star-studded soul days. But Jimmy does his best to keep you absorbed throughout these years, as well. I do wish that I had been able to get to Green's church the one time I was in Memphis - it sounds like it is still quite the experience!

As McDonough disparages other writers' version of the Al Green story, I suppose that one should take his interpretation with a grain of salt, as well, but he tells it well and seems to have done his best to get to the true heart of the tale. I'd recommend it!




Thursday, September 24, 2020

recommended live streams

 9-26-20 - Guitar Wolf presents Shemane Jett Fest - Free Live Stream Festival with a ton of incredible bands!

9-26-20 noon through 9-27-20 noon - Life is Shit Virtual Festival from the Dive Bar

10-10-20 - the Two Tens live stream virtual release show 8:00 pm Pacific Time
10-10-20 - Franks'n'Deans live stream - 8:00 pm Pacific Time

10-22-20 - Rev Horton Heat and Shanda ad the Howlers LIVE at the Fremont Country Club

10-23-20 - Rev Horton Heat and Shanda ad the Howlers LIVE at the Fremont Country Club

10-31-20 - Rayford Brothers LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Cowboy Song - The Authorized Biography of Phil Lynott by Graeme Thomson


 As with most teens in the 70's, I discovered Thin Lizzy through their terrific breakthrough album, Jailbreak, with their hits "The Boys Are Back in Town" and "Jailbreak". Hard-edged rock'n'roll with great songwriting and amazing dual lead guitars hooked damn near every kid who played rock'n'roll at the time. I have yet to truly explore their entire catalog (they have far more releases than I ever realized), but Jailbreak and Fighting have never left my playlist since they first appeared. As frontman, singer and songwriter, Phil has always been a stylish'n'hip rock'n'roll character who was cool enough and adaptable enough to play with Johnny Thunders and members of the Sex Pistols, among others, and is still revered to this days, decades after his untimely, all-too-early death. 

I never knew much about his story and right from the beginning this book tells the tale of a true individual, a young black kid in Ireland born out of wedlock to a white woman who went on to have two more children by other men who she gave up for adoption. His mother had numerous issues and Phil was sent to live with his grandparents where he stood out among his white peers, but it seems that he was given more positive attention, as opposed to the racial distancing one would expect, at least for the most part.

He grew into a stylish teen and, as much for his unique looks as anything else, became the lead singer for the Black Eagles, a local beat band who lasted a surprisingly long four years or so before fizzling out. From there he was asked to join Skid Row, again, more for his style than his singing, and he helped them to gain true notoriety with his looks and theatrics as well as the friends he brought along to create light shows and help roadie. He then started Thin Lizzy with Brian Downey (drums) and Eric Bell (guitar), got signed to Decca Records, moved to London and released two albums in short succession to little acclaim. Slogging through tours that barely paid the bills, they then stumbled upon a more winning formula with a revision of the traditional Irish number, "Whiskey in the Jar".

Funnily, despite previous theatrics in other bands, with Thin Lizzy Phil had to learn how to reach the audience while playing bass (his first band doing this) and singing. But, he studied hard at his presentation as well as his songwriting and everything did progress. By their third album, they started making headway in the charts and reached the attention of Ritchie Blackmore, who floated the idea of a supergroup with himself and Ian Paice, Paul Rodgers and Phil! This got as far as a recorded demo and fizzled when Ritchie and Ian returned to Purple, which may have been for the best all around! Thankfully, this was a time when a record company let a group grow (within reason, of course) and after a couple of dud albums, Thin Lizzy and company did begin to see some reward all around.

As everyone knows, the Jailbreak album was their smash hit breakthrough with "The Boys Are Back in Town" becoming a worldwide hit single and starting them on a trajectory for super stardom. Unfortunately, this is when Phil contracted hepatitis and derailed their entire momentum, which, while they remained reasonably successful, they - and he - never truly recovered from. The fact that two further American tours were derailed for other health and personnel issues (guitarists were the bane of Lynott's career, despite giving the band its melodic sound) also kept them from the ultra-stardom that they might have reached otherwise.

I always find it exciting to read about musicians' ride to fame'n'fortune, especially during the thrilling 60's and 70's, but so many, including Phil, threw everything away with extreme excesses of drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, no one, not even the record companies or producers would make them terminate their excesses since most of them were dealing with the same devils. This is where Phil's story becomes painfully pitiful, sad, and sometimes sickening, 

Graeme managed to interview nearly every important character in this fascinating story and found more information through the usual channels of magazines, TV shows and documentaries, and fuses it all together into a captivating and informative tale. I have to say that this is one of my favorite r'n'r biographies of recent times. Dig it!

Friday, September 18, 2020

The Misfits - Static Age

 


This record has a truly convoluted legacy, which is explained fully on Wikipedia, with the album not released in its entirety until 1996 despite being recorded in 1978! Many of the songs had appeared in one form or another over the years though and this sound is likely what most people think of when they think of the Misfits.

Led by Glenn Danzig, of course, here he is joined by Jerry Only (bass) with Franche Coma on guitar and drummer Mr. Jim, for a stripped down, punk rock look at pop culture, media and horror movies, done with catchy hooks and Glenn's powerful vocals. While the sound quality/mix is pretty mediocre - 17 songs were recorded in 30 hours - the songs are well written, melodic punk rockers. "Static Age", "TV Casualty", and "Some Kinda Hate" are basic sing-along punkers but then we get the sublime "One Last Caress", a minimalist masterpiece with an impossibly memorable melody driving lines like "I got something to say, I killed your baby today". Truly one of Glenn's best! "Return of the Fly" is based on the B-movie, of course, "Hybrid Moments" is highly melodic, "We Are 138" is a cryptic anthem while "Teenagers From Mars" is a true B-Movie anthem, "Come Back" is a bit more drone-y and probably the longest song here, and then there's "AngelFuck", another incredibly memorable, incredibly offensive, amazing song!  

Kinda obvious where he got the title "Hollywood Babylon" and it's another stompin' punk singalong, "Attitude" is more minimalistic punk making the Ramones sound proficient by comparison, followed by one of their most infamous, "Bullet", about the JFK assassination, which suddenly shifts lyrical gears with a chorus of "you gotta suck, suck Jackie suck" and more sexual references, which seems like a strange juxtaposition to me, but then I'm not Glenn! He adds some electric piano for a more moody/garage feel in "Theme For a Jackal" but "She" goes back to primitive punk, "Spinal Remains" is practically early thrash, and the closer, "In the Doorway" is pretty basic punk rock. There's a hidden track with another version of "Hollywood Babylon", among others, with some studio chatter and some false starts'n'stops for a behind-the-scenes "look" at the sessions.

As I say, the sound quality is pretty iffy - it wasn't until the band Danzig that Glenn finally got good studio sound courtesy of Rick Ruben - but the songs are true classics, confirming the Misfits rightful place in punk rock hierarchy. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

recommended live streams

 9-18-20 - the Delta Bombers live stream 6:30 pm Pacific time

9-19-20 - Junior Brown live stream - 7:00 pm CDT

9-23-20 - The Hypnotiques live stream 7:00 pm Pacific Time

9-26-20 - Guitar Wolf presents Shemane Jett Fest - Free Live Stream Festival with a ton of incredible bands!
9-26-20 noon through 9-27-20 noon - Life is Shit Virtual Festival from the Dive Bar

10-10-20 - the Two Tens live stream virtual release show 8:00 pm Pacific Time
10-10-20 - Franks'n'Deans live stream - 8:00 pm Pacific Time

10-31-20 - Rayford Brothers LIVE at the Sand Dollar

Monday, September 14, 2020

Patti Smith - Early Work

 


I've been continuing to catch up on the written works on Patti Smith lately, since I hadn't really bought much since Babel in the 70's. Her poetry can be somewhat esoteric and ethereal with wild, disjointed, stream of consciousness, free-association imagery, but she also can turn a mean phrase when she tries. Her prose is still lyrical, but much more coherent, which means it can be a bit easier to read, but the challenge of her poetry is very worthwhile, as well.

This book of poems collects a portion of Patti's 1970's work, including some which would later become lyrics to her better known songs - an early version of "Oath" (the prelude to her version of "Gloria"), "Land" ("Horses" before it became "Horses), "Babelogue", the intro to "Rock'n'Roll Nigger", and plenty of others, as well as some that became BOC lyrics (they recorded her words long before she became a musical artist herself), along with at least one missive that appeared in Creem magazine (her ode to Jim Morrison). Also included are photos that she took, as well as some that she related to the words, either found or produced by friends such as Robert Mapplethorpe.

This is a nice selection and a good overview of Patti in the 70's - fans should certainly get this one! 

James White and the Blacks - Sax Maniac

 


This weekend I had a chance to peruse some of our massive vinyl collection and stumbled upon this haphazardly. Obviously, I listen to all kinds of music all the time, but I have been going through a No-Wave period off-n-on, so I wanted to revisit this one from 1982. Turns out that this is one of the best combinations of funk (excellent bass/drum rhythm section by Colin Wade and Ralph Rolle, respectively) and atonal noize/sax screeches that I am aware of. Pretty gawddamn great from start to finish!

James Brown-styled funk is infused throughout the record, starting with "Irresistible Impulse", an almost straight-forward funk piece, excepting for James' wild vocalizing and some crazed keyboard and sax noodlings towards the end. I don't have the album in front of me and I'm listening via YouTube right now, so I'm not sure if the track order is correct, but White's take on "That Old Black Magic" is damn near unrecognizable, but in a good way - he truly reinvents this in his own funked-up style filled with plenty of wild cacophony. "Disco Jaded" isn't quite as frantic, but is still a discordant ride through alt-rhythms and weird'n'wooly key'n'sax interplay backing White's tortured, wailin' vocals. The bass lines are truly frantic'n'loopy in "Money to Burn", but maintain a happenin' groove with White and the Discolitas trading vocal lines on top of it followed by some beautiful madness with insane horn duels. This leads into the title cut with James proclaiming himself a "Sax Maniac" with the Discolitas confirming this while the horns provide a soulful backing and I certainly hope that White was doing his best James Brown dance moves throughout this one! This feel continues in "Sax Machine" - he wasn't influenced by Brown at all, was he? - although the Discolitas carry the vocals more in this one while James wails away on his horn - and they finish things off with their latest dance craze, "The Twitch", which seems appropriate for the a-rhythmic funk that they blast through this number!

The anchoring groove helps to make the crazed shrieks'n'bleats a bit more palatable, in a way, but the insanity is beautiful in its own way, as well. Amazing record!

The Byrds Original Album Classics - 5 CD set

 


The Byrds literally rang in the folk-rock scene with Roger/Jim (for some reason he would switch his first name) McGuinn's 12-string Rickenbacker guitar with their classic cover of Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man" and their own amazing put-down song, "Feel a Whole Lot Better". Merging the songs of the folk scene with the electricity and harmonies of the Beatles, they created a new, instantly recognizable sound that resonates and inspires to this day. This 5-CD set compiles their first five albums in reproductions of the original covers which, while pretty cool, makes it a bit difficult to read the text when it has been shrunk down this much. No booklet is included, but this is budget priced and you get all of the great music, so that is really just a nit-pick.

They debuted with the album Mr. Tambourine Man and the smash hit single that started a genre opens the album, starting their legacy of covering Dylan and making him even more popular than he already was! Gene Clark's "Feel a Whole Lot Better" is one of the prettiest put-down songs ever and continued the 12-string folk-rock sound, another Dylan cover already, "Spanish Harlem Incident" isn't nearly as successful, but Clark and McGuinn's "You Don't Have To Cry" is a nice pop-folk number, Clark's "Here Without You" is catchy'n'moody in a captivating minor key, Pete Seeger's "The Bells of Rhymney" is given a terrific treatment, Dylan's "All I Really Want To Do" is probably better than the original, "I Knew I'd Want You" is another excellent Clark tune, and his collaboration with McGuinn in "It's No Use" is a cool garage rocker, then there's a slightly odd Jackie DeShannon cut, "Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe", that still works, for their fourth (!) Dylan number we get "Chimes of Freedom" and the album finale was a super strange take on the 1939 song "We'll Meet Again". For the bonus tracks there's another lovely Clark song, "She Has a Way", alternative takes of "Feel a Whole Lot Better", "It's No Use" and "You Won't Have to Cry", the single version of "All I Really Want To Do" and an instrumental take of "You and Me".

Turn! Turn! Turn! is the title of the group's sophomore album as well as their hit single version of Pete Seeger's adaptation of the Bible's Book of Ecclesiastes, done in their signature, jangly folk-rock manner. McGuinn collaborates with Harvey Gerst for the truly lovely "It Won't Be Long" (amazing melody!), Clark's "Set You Free This Time" is a sweet, slow-tempo'd, Dylan-esque number, and they cover another Dylan tune, this time one that was unreleased, "Lay Down Your Weary Tune", McGuinn adapted the traditional "He Was a Friend of Mine" as a tribute to JFK, "The World Turns Around Her" is another terrific Clark tune, while Hillman suggested Porter Wagner's "Satisfied Mind", hearkening to their later country period, then they get a bit in a folk/psych mood for Clark's "If You're Gone", back to Dylan for a terrific take on "The Times They Are a-Changin'", McGuinn and Crosby get together for "Wait and See" and the vinyl finished with an odd adaptation of "Oh! Susannah!", of all things. There's a plethora of extras on this CD, starting with a couple more Clark songs, "The Day Walk" and "She Don't Care About Time", alt takes on "The Times They Are a-Changin'" and "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" as well as "She Don't Care About Time", "The World Turns All Around Her" and an instrumental of Crosby's "A Stranger in a Strange Land".

Their third album, Fifth Dimension, saw the departure of guitarist/songwriter Gene Clark and therefore the prominence of McGuinn and David Crosby as songwriters, along with a great deal of experimentation. The opening "5D (Fifth Dimension)" is a Dylan-esque folk number, sounding like it could easily fit in either of their previous albums, as does the traditional "Wild Mountain Thyme" but these are followed by the fun, country-styled, pop excursion into the existence of extra terrestrials, "Mr. Spaceman", then the McGuinn/Crosby harmony-drenched collaboration "I See You" which brings in some neat, psychedelic 12 string noodling reminiscent of "Eight Miles High", which had already been recorded by this time. Crosby's first recorded original "What's Happening?!?!" brings in more psych 12 string to his existential questioning, then a cover of Nazim Hikmet's "I Come and Stand at Every Door" is a melancholy ballad, and the terrific "Eight Miles High", an incredibly catchy and wonderful mix of Coltrane, Ravi Shankar, psychedelia and folk-pop - truly original, creative and it still causes goosebumps every time I hear it! Not as inspiring is their Leaves-like take on "Hey Joe" or the instrumental band composition, "Captain Soul" (essentially, simply a jam), the traditional "John Riley" fares a bit better and "2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song)" is simply a novelty. The bonus tracks on this record include the fabulously lovely "Why", the flip to the single of "Eight Miles High" and a similarly incredible raga-rock number, along with a beautiful folk-pop arrangement of another traditional, "I Know My Rider", Crosby's freak-out "Psychodrama City", the original versions of "Eight Miles High" and "Why" (I prefer the "official versions", but that could just be due to familiarity), an instrumental of "John Riley" and a radio interview. Nice extras!

For their fourth excursion, Younger Than Yesterday, the band, with the help of producer Gary Usher, further expanded their sounds with more psych and jazz influences, as well as the addition of extra instruments. Bassist Chris Hillman emerged as a vocalist and songwriter here, as well, including co-writing, with McGuinn, their hit from this album, the opening classic, "So You Wanna Be a Rock'n'Roll Star", which included a brass section, adding a different texture to the proceedings. Hillman's "Have You Seen Her Face" is a super-strong, somewhat Beatles-esuqe folk-pop tune, "C.T.A. - 102" is nice, but not overly strong, "Renaissance Fair" is a gorgeous Crosby/McGuinn number with an impossibly great melody line in "I think that maybe I'm dreaming", Hillman returns for "Time Between", a sweet country-pop number hearkening to the band's future country stylings, Crosby's "Everybody's Been Burned" has a captivating melody and could easily fit in on the first Crosby, Stills and Nash album. Another strong Hillman composition, "Thoughts and Words", opened side two of the vinyl, with Crosby's Jefferson Airplane-like (he even sounds a bit like Grace in a couple of places!), highly (hah!) psychedelic "Mind Gardens" coming next, they return to their roots for their cover of Dylan's "My Back Pages" and another Hillman tune, "The Girl With No Name" fits in well with that and the vinyl ended with "Why", from the "Eight Miles High" single. There's a bunch of bonus tracks here: Crosby's "It Happens Every Day", the upbeat "Don't Make Waves" (wonder why this didn't make the album? It's a goodie!), an alt version of "My Back Pages" with keyboards and a weirdly (but not badly) effected lead guitar, an alt of "Mind Gardens", another Crosby tune, "Lady Friend" and the single version of "Old John Robertson" that segues into an uncredited instro of "Mind Gardens".

More experimentation took place for The Notorious Byrd Brothers, with even more different instruments - including pedal steel and one of the first uses of a Moog on record - while the band went through much upheaval - Crosby left, Michael Clarke left, returned, and left again, and Gene Clark returned for a few weeks before quitting again! Horns open "Artificial Energy", giving a slightly soulful pop sound - already pretty different for this group! Carole King/Gerry Goffin's  "Goin' Back" is given a nice Byrds-y treatment, "Natural Harmony" is slightly jazzy, "Draft Morning" starts as a wistful ballad that evolves into a war-themed theater piece, their pedal-steel/psych take on the King/Goffin "Wasn't Born to Follow" was a highlight of the Easy Rider soundtrack, while "Get to You" is a light-weight, string-filled ballad. "Change is Now" kinda throws the kitchen sink into the production, turning a ballad into a psychedelic backwards-lead guitar jam and then a country number and still somehow working, more byrdsian countryisms in "Old John Robertson", which breaks briefly for a strange string section, Crosby/Hillman's "Tribal Gathering" again sounds a bit like later CSN with a cool guitar lead, "Dolphin's Smile" is somewhat experimental, but still Byrdsian, while "Space Odyssey" is definitely spacey! Another big batch of extras here  including the wacky instrumental "Moog Raga", which lives up to its title, a more down-to-earth instro of "Bound to Fall", one of my fave Crosby songs, the ever "controversial" "Triad", alternative takes of "Goin' Back" and "Draft Morning" and the instrumental "Universal Mind Decoder" which segues into an uncredited radio ad and in-studio argument!

These bonus priced collections are well worth it in my eyes, especially with all of the extras included. A fantastic collection of some of the best folk rock ever done!


Thursday, September 10, 2020

RIP Diana Riggs



Dame Diana Rigg: Avengers, Bond and Game of Thrones actress dies at 82 
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